Archive for November, 2012

Talas (or Rhythmic Cycles) in Carnatic Music

November 16, 2012

Talas (or Rhythmic Cycles) in Carnatic Music

L V Nagarajan

Tala is a repeated rhythmic pattern of stressed and unstressed beats played on a percussion instrument in Indian music. Any melody or composition is always set to a rhythmic pattern. I have heard people say even while elaborating a raga certain rhythmic pattern must be followed. Many times the Thanam as presented in Carnatic music is referred to as Raga in 2nd and 3rd speeds.

In this write-up my intention is not to present a description of Tala system of carnatic music. These descriptions are amply available in different media. Herein I am attempting to give students and listeners of Carnatic music a nice way of understanding, appreciating and imbibing the tala nuances of our music. Let me warn you, I am not an expert in this field. By my shear hearing experience, I am initiating a different way of Tala-pratice, which can be further improved by the experts in this field.

Let me start this process from the simplest and most popular Adi Tala. As you know this is also known as Chatusra-Triputa Tala, consisting of one Chatusra-Lagu and two Drithms, totaling to 8 beats, as 1-2-3-4,1-2,1-2.

We are again starting with the most popular chatusra-nadai, i.e., 4 Aksharas per beat. Hence we start with Adi Tala with a total of 8×4=32 Aksharas. Now we may recite the following sollu’s together with Adi Tala beats by the hand.

Varisai No.1

1Tha Ka Dhi Mi- 2Tha Ka Dhi Mi- 3Tha Ka Dhi Mi- 4Tha Ka Dhi Mi-

1Tha Ka Dhi Mi- 2Tha Ka Dhi Mi- 1Tha Ka Dhi Mi- 2Tha Ka Dhi Mi- (M)

This will be with middle speed known as Madhyama Kala. We can recite the same sollus in Chowka Kala and Vilamba Kala, i.e., in slow and super slow speeds as below: (It is important to keep the tala beats on hand at the same speed)

1Tha   .   Ka   .  2Dhi   .   Mi   .  – 3Tha   .   Ka   .  4Dhi   .   Mi   . –

1Tha   .   Ka   .  2Dhi   .   Mi   .  – 1Tha   .   Ka   .  2Dhi   .   Mi   . –  (C)

1Tha   .   .   .   2Ka   .   .   .   3Dhi   .   .   .  4Mi   .   .   .  –

1Tha   .   .   .   2Ka   .   .   .   1Dhi   .   .   .  2Mi   .   .   .  –  (V)

In the above Tala-notes, I have followed the notations as below:

‘ – ‘ denotes separation of rhythmic syllables

1 ‘ Super-scripted numbers denote beats of the Tala

‘ . ‘ Dots denote Akshara kala, Karvai or the length of the sollus.

M – denotes Madhyama kala, normal speed

C – denotes Chowka kala, slow speed

V – Denotes Vilamba, super slow speed.

The above basic varisai was quite easy. Now we may make it slightly more complex. There are standard syllables of 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9 Aksharas as below.

2 – Dwi            – Tham

3 – Tisra           – Tha Ki Ta

4 – Chatusra     – Tha Ka Dhi Mi

5 – Kanda        – Tha Ka Tha Ki Ta

7 – Misra          – Tha Ki Ta Tha Ka Dhi Mi

9 – Sankeerna – Tha Ka Dhi Mi Tha Ka Tha Ki Ta

At first, let us use the above Tisra syllable of three akshras in Adi Tala, chatusra nadai and see how the rhythm sounds:

Varisai No.2

1Tha Ka Dhi Mi- 2Tha Ki Ta- Tha 3Ki Ta- Tha Ki 4Ta- Tha Ki Ta-

1Tha Ka Dhi Mi- 2Tha Ki Ta- Tha 1Ki Ta- Tha Ki 2Ta- Tha Ki Ta- (M)

1Tha . Ka . 2Dhi . Mi – 3Tha . Ki . 4Ta – Tha .

1Ki . Ta . – 2Tha . Ki . 1Ta – Tha . 2Ki . Ta –   (C)

1Tha . . .2Ka . . .3Dhi . . .4Mi . . .- 1Tha . . .2Ki . . .1Ta . . .- 2Tha . . .

1Ki . . .2Ta . . .- 3Tha . . .4Ki . . .1Ta . . .- 2Tha . . .1Ki . . .2Ta . . .- (V)

The first ‘Tha Ka Dhi Mi’ is used as a filler.

It is important to practice these Tala Varisais in all the three speeds. It will help one to get the timing of the sollus correctly. To get the speed right, it may be of help to practice Varisai-1, before each one of the other varisais.

Now let us try and introduce the Tala syllable ‘Tha Ka Tha Ki Ta’ in Adi Tala. This syllable is known as ‘Kanda’. Here we may use the syllables ‘Tha Ka Dhi Mi’ and ‘Tha Ki Ta’, as fillers as shown below.

Varisai No.3   

1Tha Ka Dhi Mi- 2Tha Ki Ta- Tha 3Ka Tha Ki Ta- 4Tha Ka Tha Ki

1Ta- Tha Ka Tha 2Ki Ta- Tha Ka 1Tha Ki Ta- Tha 2Ka Tha Ki Ta- (M)

 

1Tha . Ka . 2Dhi . Mi . – 3Tha . Ki . 4Ta . – Tha .

1Ka . Tha . 2Ki . Ta . – 1Tha . Ka . 2Tha . Ki .

1Ta . – Tha . 2Ka . Tha . 3Ki . Ta . – 4Tha . Ka .

1Tha . Ki . 2Ta .  – Tha . 1Ka . Tha . 2Ki . Ta . —–(C)

Similarly we can write for Vilamba kala.

We may also do this exercise for the syllable ‘Tha Ki Ta Tha Ka Dhi Mi’ known as Misra by using the syllable Tha Ka Dhi Mi as filler:

Varisai No.4

1Tha Ka Dhi Mi – 2Tha Ki Ta Tha 3Ka Dhi Mi- Tha 4Ki Ta Tha Ka

1Dhi Mi- Tha Ki 2Ta Tha Ka Dhi 1Mi- Tha Ki Ta 2Tha Ka Dhi Mi – (M)

 

1Tha . Ka . 2Dhi . Mi . – 3Tha . Ki . 4Ta . Tha .

1Ka . Dhi . 2Mi . – Tha . 1Ki . Ta . 2Tha . Ka .

1Dhi . Mi . – 2Tha . Ki . 3Ta .Tha . 4Ka . Dhi .

1Mi . -Tha . 2Ki . Ta . 1Tha . Ka . 2Dhi . Mi . – (C)

As a final one we can mix and match all the standard syllables as below

Varisai No.5

1Tha Ki Ta- Tha 2Ka Tha Ki Ta- 3Tha Ka Dhi Mi 4Tha Ka Tha Ki

1Ta- Tha Ka Dhi 2Mi Tha Ki Ta- 1Tha Ka Tha Ki 2Ta- Tha Ki Ta- (M)

 

1Tha . Ki . 2Ta . – Tha . 3Ka . Tha . 4Ki . Ta . –

1Tha . Ka . 2Dhi . Mi . 1Tha . Ka 2Tha Ki

1Ta . – Tha . 2Ka . Dhi . 3Mi . Tha . 4Ki . Ta . –

1Tha . Ka . 2Tha . Ki . 1Ta . – Tha . 2Ki . Ta . – (C)

Similarly we can write the varisai for Vilamba speed. You may notice that I have introduced the Sankeerna syllable also in the above varisai. The Misra syllable is used in viloma pattern as – ‘Tha Ka Dhi Mi Tha Ki Ta’ for enhancing the rhythmic value of the varisai.

I have restricted myself to Chatusra Triputa Tala (Adi Tala) – Chatusra Nadai. We may develop such varisais in other Nadais and Talas.

Once these vaisais are practiced by students of carnatic vocal and instruments, it is hoped they will get a good command on Tala in their renderings. It will also be helpful for percussionists. However I feel they may be already practicing more complex rhythmic patterns than these. These varisais may also be practiced by serious listeners of Carnatic music. It will help them to appreciate the nuances of Talas in renderings of Kritis, Niravals, Swara prastharas, Tillanas and Tani Avarthanams.

Before signing off, I am inspired to provide you with a somewhat difficult but beautiful series of rhythmic syllables (known as Korvai). If at all you appreciate this koravai, the credit goes to the master-intellect of Maha-vidwan Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman sir. This is a simplified version of his korvai as interpreted by Dr.N.Ramanathan.

1Tham -Tha Ka 2Tha Ki Ta –  Tha3m – Tha Ka Tha 4Ki Ta – Tham –

1Tha Ka Tha Ki  2Ta – Tham – Tha 1Ka  Tha Ki Ta – 2Tha Ki Ta . –

1Tha Ki Ta . –  2Tha Ki Ta – Tha3m – Tha Ka Tha 4Ki Ta – Tham –

1Tha Ka Tha Ki  2Ta – Tham – Tha 1Ka  Tha Ki Ta – 2Tha Ki Ta . –

1Tha Ki Ta . –  2Tha Ki Ta – Tha3m – Tha Ka Tha 4Ki Ta – Tham –

1Tha Ka Tha Ki  2Ta – Tha Ki Ta 1 . – Tha Ki Ta 2 . – Tha Ki Ta – 1(Tham)

Kindly pardon me, if you find any mistakes in the above write-up. I welcome your comments and contributions.

Ref:

‘Lalgudi Jayaraman – Technique and Concert Form’ by Dr. N. Ramanathan, SRUTI, Madras, No.74, November 1990 – as quoted in Lalgudi 80 – 2009.

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